HAYWARD (CBS SF) — Suspected serial killer David Misch was charged Monday with the abduction slaying of Michaela Garecht, a nine-year-old who vanished from a Hayward street corner in November 1988 and has been one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most high-profile missing children’s cases, authorities said.
Misch has been incarcerated at the state prison medical facility in Stockton for the December 1989 stabbing death of
36-year-old Margaret Ball at her home in unincorporated Hayward. He has also been charged with the 1986 cold case murders of two young Fremont women whose bodies were found alongside Mill Creek Rd.
“Today is about family, community and healing,” Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin said. “We can announce that 59-year-old David Misch has been charged with the murder of Michaela Garecht … The disappearance of Michaela Garecht is a tragic story that has gripped the Bay Area for decades.”
Chaplin said his department continued to follow any new leads that appeared even as the years and decades rolled by. The break came from investigators in the double cold case homicide in nearby Fremont and a partial palm print in the Garecht case.
“The breakthrough in the case occurred earlier this year as the result of new leads that pointed us in the direction of Misch,” the chief told reporters. “We had the opportunity to follow those leads patiently as Misch has been in state prison since 1989 convicted of murder.”
Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley told reporters Misch has been charged with murder and two special circumstances. If found guilty, he could be given a death sentence. Misch was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.
“There are no words that can adequately describe the horror of a kidnapped child,” she told reporters. “Especially when the child or the child’s remains are never found…They were just kids. Carefree and certainly not suspecting the danger that lay ahead. Michaela’s kidnapping devastated her family. Paralyzed them with grief and terrorized them with the unknowing of what happened to Michaela. Their pain was and remains indescribable.”
“I’m just glad he got caught, you know. That’s all I can say. Now they got somebody. It’s gonna start the process all over again,” said Michaela’s father Rod Garecht, 71, who drove from his home in Amador County to Hayward for Monday’s announcement.
“I’m kinda relieved that they caught somebody over it so now I don’t gotta – they’ve got a suspect they can grill and hopefully he’ll cough up wherever the body is,” he said.
Chaplin said his department remains hopeful that they will be able to locate Garecht’s remains. He also read to reporters a statement from Michaela’s mother — Sharon Murch.
“In the last year, I had to come to a place of acceptance that Michaela was probably no longer alive, but somehow that acceptance was far more wrapped up in the idea of Michaela sitting on a fluffy thin cloud, walking on streets of gold, dancing on grassy hills, soaring among the stars,” Murch wrote. “What I did not envision was my daughter as a dead child. It was only when I heard this news that this vision of reality appeared and I have honestly not figured out what to do with it.”
“A chill set in which had nothing to do with the snow outside my home in southwest Iowa,” she continued. “I feel as though I am looking for Michaela but now I don’t know where. I honestly feel lost in the dark. Over the years I have often wonder whether I really wanted to know the truth about what happened to Michaela. I wondered if I would be able to take it.”
Also at today’s news conference, retired Hayward Police Lt. Ken Gross, who worked Garecht’s disappearance as a detective for three years and said Misch’s name never came up in his investigation.
“I just feel bad that I couldn’t get it closed before I moved on. We didn’t have very many able-bodied investigators, but I knew down the line, someone would come up with something. It took a long time,” Gross told KPIX 5.
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“That’s gone on in the back of my head and wondering if we missed something or something got by us that we should’ve seen, but I guess it didn’t,” he said. “I guess this was something that fortunately through investigations, they got the leads for him and we’re able to track him down.”
Garecht and a friend rode their scooters to the Rainbow Market located in her Hayward neighborhood on the morning of November 19, 1988 to buy some candy and sodas. After they came out of the store, investigators said Michaela noticed that her friend’s scooter had been moved in the parking lot.
When she went to retrieve it, an unidentified Caucasian male who appeared to be 18-to-24 years old grabbed her and forced her into his older model American-made sedan and sped away from the scene.
Michaela’s friend went inside the market calling for help. By the the time, the store clerk rushed out of the store, both Garecht and her abductor had vanished.
Over the decades that have followed several notorious serial killers including Curtis Dean Anderson, who was convicted of the kidnap-slaying Xiana Fairchild, and the infamous Speed Freak serial killers, Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog, have been investigated as possible suspect in Garecht’s disappearance.
Misch was already in prison when technological advances in DNA forensic analysis linked him to the 1986 murders of Michelle Xavier and Jennifer Duey in Fremont.
He was charged with murder but prosecutors also filed five special circumstances murder allegations against Misch: two for allegedly killing the two women during the course of a rape and three for allegedly committing multiple murders.
He currently is in Santa Rita Jail awaiting trial on the two Fremont murders. Investigators said the charges in that case stem back to February 2, 1986.
Shortly after midnight on that day, Duey and Xavier, who were best friends, were found dead along the side of Mill Creek Road in Hayward, a little more than a mile east of Mission Blvd.
A motorcyclist driving on Mill Creek Rd. discovered the bodies at about 12:30 a.m., and immediately called police.
The women had been shot and stabbed in the hours prior. Xavier was 18 and Duey was 20 at the time. The deaths of the two women were highly publicized and left many in the community shaken and fearful in their own neighborhoods.
Earlier in the evening the women had attended a birthday dinner for a family member and were last seen together around 8:00 p.m. at a convenience store in the area of Farwell Dr. and Mowry Ave.
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Andria Borba contributed to this report.